AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police want people to know: Law enforcement agencies worldwide are seeing an increase of reports of ransomware infecting computers.
Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents you from accessing your computers. In order to regain control, then you must pay a “ransom” — typically through some online payment — in order to regain access to your system. Police say that most of those funds are routed outside of their jurisdiction, as well as outside their ability to track.
The Austin Police Department is also warning that something else in association with ransomware infections is on the rise: forms of ransomware that impersonate law enforcement agencies. These forms of the malware typically show a notification page from either a federal law enforcement agency or from your local law enforcement agency informing you that you have committed illegal activity online and have been given a fine.
Police say one of the most recent and most prevalent forms of ransomware encrypts files in the computer, in addition to locking the system. Even if the malware program itself is removed using anti-malware software, the files on the system are still encrypted and not available to the user. This ensures that the ransom gets paid — even if the malware program is removed.
Avoiding ransomware is similar to avoiding any other type of malware:
- Always maintain a firewall and use good antivirus software.
- Keep your antivirus software up to date.
- Enable your popup blocker. Popups can be used in order to get users to click on an infected link.
- Be careful when opening any types of email attachments.
- Beware of suspicious websites that you are directed toward.
- Backup your computer often. In case your system does get infected, you may be able to restore it to a previous time when your system wasn’t infected.
If your system is infected you may need to take it to a reputable repair shop.